1stXV’s Dominant First Half Proves Just Enough To Overcome Hartpury Fight Back
Ampthill welcomed visitors Hartpury to Dillingham Park on a dry, partly cloudy afternoon with a north westerly breeze after overnight snow. Amps squad saw Kennet O’Neill start at lock while Russel Weir, on loan from London Scottish, made his debut on the bench.
Ampthill dominated the first half with the visitors set piece poor, the second half saw Hartpury change personnel and tactics to turn the tables, Amps superior goal kicking turned out to be crucial.
For once Ampthill came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders, taking advantage of an early penalty against Hartpury, Amps kicked inside the visitors 22, won the lineout and set the driving maul which was halted a couple of metres out. Center William Goodge broke from the maul and crashed over wide on the right in the 3rd minute, wing Elliot Clements-Hill adding a fine conversion.
Just 5 minutes later blindside Darrel Dyer won a footrace to touch down after Hartpury had knocked on a high kick which was fly hacked twice by scrum half Gavin Williams, first outside and then inside the 22. This time Clements-Hill added the extras from wide out on the opposite left.
A’s remained on top for the next 20 minutes with Hartpury’s lineout miss-firing and their scrum going backwards but failed to trouble the scoreboard. The visitors had two chances for lineouts deep in the hosts 22 but turned the ball over both times before changing tack and choosing to kick a 27th minute penalty goal, successfully struck by full back Gareth Thompson.
Straight from the kick off the home side were back on the attack and a series of phases resulted in captain Aleki Lutui driving over the line from close range, Clements-Hill striking his 3rd conversion from 5m in from the left touchline.
Ampthill pressed for the bonus point try but failed to take their chances eventually settling for a last kick of the half penalty goal from Clements-Hill to leave the score 24-3 at oranges.
For 10 minutes at the start of the second half Amps continued to dominate but without the accuracy of the first half, at one point spurning a 3 on 1 with a knock on deep inside the visitors 22.
Hartpury began to establish field position and exert some pressure on the hosts aided by A’s indiscipline including 3 consecutive breakdown penalties which led to a 56th minute unconverted try wide on the left from scrum half Harry Cochrane.
The 65th minute saw the visitors score another unconverted try through their standout player Dan Thomas, who was becoming more and more influential.
The home side were now increasingly earning the referees displeasure and went down to 14 players for a team yellow card in the 75th minute just as Hartpury scored their 3rd unconverted try through their hooker James Stephenson.
Ampthill had their chances to close out the game in the last 5 minutes, eventually accepting a 79th minute penalty goal chance, surprisingly given his accuracy beforehand, Clements-Hill sent the much easier kick just wide of the right hand post. Amps secured the restart, ate up the clock and kicked to touch to end a game that was much closer in score line than in territory & possession.
Director of Rugby Mark Lavery commented “An emotional day with a fine first half performance. Head coach Paul Turner has taken Ampthill, quite literally, to another level. He missed the game today as his father passed away late last night, our thoughts and condolences are with Paul and family.”
Tries:- Goodge (3), Dyer (8), Lutui (28)
Conversions:- Clements-Hill (4, 9, 29)
Penalties:- Clements-Hill (40)
Tries:- Cochrane (57), Thomas (65), Stephenson (75)
Penalties:- Thompson (27)
Half Time:- 24-3
Referee:- James Sullivan
Star Man:- Aleki Lutui